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Test Setup And Benchmarks

Premium Two-Channel PC Speaker Roundup
By

Most PC speaker reviews are limited to subjective opinions. While those are quite useful, this is Tom’s Hardware. We’re going to try to go a little deeper than that with some objective measurements, too.

Our measurements are taken with a calibrated Apex 220 measurement microphone, with phantom power supplied by TubeMP preamp. The measurement software we’re using is TrueRTA audio spectrum analyzer level 4, found at www.trueaudio.com. Testing is done in a 25’x15’ room with the microphone pointed upward 25” from the speaker satellites. Only one satellite is used for testing to minimize phase cancellation.


Mini-ITX Half-Height Build
CPU

AMD Phenom II X4 705e
2.5 GHz, 6 MB L3 Cache, 65 W TDP

Motherboard

Asus M4A88T-I Deluxe Socket AM3
Chipset: AMD 880G, BIOS 0410

Networking
Onboard Gigabit LAN controller
Memory

Mushkin PC3 10700 SO-DIMM
  2 x 2048 MB, 1333 MT/s, CL 9-9-9-24-1T

Graphics

Radeon HD 5570 Reference
650 MHz GPU, 512 MB DDR3 at 900 MHz

Hard Drive

Western Digital Caviar Black 750 GB
7200 RPM, 32 MB Cache, SATA 3.0Gb/s

Power

In-Win IP-AD120-2
160 W (included with case)

Audio
Realtek ALC889
High-Definition Audio Codec
Software and Drivers
Operating System
Microsoft Windows 7 x64
DirectX versionDirectX 11
Graphics Drivers
AMD Catalyst 10.11
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  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , January 19, 2011 4:16 AM
    Has the reviewer heard of Audioengine A2 speakers? They are outstanding 2 channel speakers for $199.
  • 0 Hide
    Randomacts , January 19, 2011 4:21 AM
    No love for the budget minded folk?
  • 3 Hide
    Harby , January 19, 2011 4:43 AM
    jdmiHas the reviewer heard of Audioengine A2 speakers? They are outstanding 2 channel speakers for $199.


    Indeed, A2s are really good, though a bit on the weak side with 30 watts. But since you went with B&W you could have tested Audioengine A5s which are insanely awesome and cheaper than B&W's at ~$325.
  • 1 Hide
    gostumpy , January 19, 2011 4:59 AM
    Large knob that feels quick robust? ;) 
  • 0 Hide
    dEAne , January 19, 2011 5:20 AM
    I like that Bowers & Wilkins MM-1 - but yes theirs a bit lacking to the design.
  • -1 Hide
    sparky2010 , January 19, 2011 5:52 AM
    I'm really happy with my 4 year old creative soundworks 7.1 system... until now it still offers great sound, and having true 7.1 really rocks, especially in FPS... although i'm considering the logitech z5500.. hat sounds amazing and looks even better...
  • 0 Hide
    icehot , January 19, 2011 5:55 AM
    Nice review, I bought the Creative Gigaworks T40 Series II about 4 months ago, and have loved them, the sound is superb.
  • 0 Hide
    titaniumsquirrel , January 19, 2011 7:15 AM
    The AV 40s were the first speakers I've ever owned that failed on me. I don't care how good they sound if reliability is an issue. I'm never purchasing another M-Audio product. Decided to go with a pair of Gigaworks refurbs for a fraction of the price afterward and have been very pleased.
  • -4 Hide
    hardcore_gamer , January 19, 2011 7:19 AM
    2.0 is way too low.For gamers, a 5.1 is the minimum requirement.
  • 0 Hide
    megatron46 , January 19, 2011 7:23 AM
    Nice Speakers but i like my Monitor Audio RX8 teamed with Definitive Technology Supercube I sub and Cambridge Audio Azur 840A Amp.......
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , January 19, 2011 7:55 AM
    Too bad the nuberts arent out yet
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , January 19, 2011 8:22 AM
    Well, I'm not a hardcore gamer, but I'm well into music. I tried lots of 'computer' speakers, only to find that none comes close to even sub-par 'hifi' speakers.
    So, I went for a pair of Mackie MR8 - which are pro audio monitors. They're not much more expensive than high-end PC speakers - but it's a totally different world in any respect: sound quality, power, you name it.
    If you're serious about sound, check them - they're discounted everywhere.
    By the way, I'm driving them with a Fucusrite Saffire Pro24 DSP: a killer combination.
  • 0 Hide
    Alvin Smith , January 19, 2011 9:46 AM
    KRK Systems RP5G2 Rokit G2 Powered Studio Monitor - 5 inch, 75 Watts

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16882280001&cm_re=krk-_-82-280-001-_-Product

    Just Better.

  • 2 Hide
    JohnnyLucky , January 19, 2011 10:25 AM
    My pc is connected to my old audio receiver & speakers through a fiber optic cable. The sound is outstanding.
  • 0 Hide
    jeverson , January 19, 2011 10:31 AM
    For that kind of money I would rather just get this...

    http://www.klipsch.com/na-en/products/promedia-2-1-overview/

    That way I also get a dedicated sub.
  • 3 Hide
    Yargnit , January 19, 2011 10:37 AM
    Hopefully we'll see a 5.1+ article soon as well. I have a Logitech z5500 that I use for PC as well as TV and Xbox, and I'd love to see how other surround systems stack up.

    I do find it odd that you'd include a $500 2 speaker setup, yet you don't include any systems in the ~$50 range. It seems like $500 2 speaker systems is a very niche market, my 5.1 system cost less than that, and it can function as a home theater system as well. It would be interesting however to throw a cheap system in there to see if there is a big difference. The $100 and $500 seemed amazingly close.
  • 1 Hide
    orodreth , January 19, 2011 10:39 AM
    The article should have provided additional parameters around which the selections were determined (unless you sampled only speakers that manufacturers were giving you for free in exchange for the review... though that would be nice to know). Price is probably the number one differentiation that consumers would consider. Then you have physical dimensions, power, inputs/outputs, and perhaps frequency response, which would be the collection of main factors that might categorize purchasing decisions.

    The only two criteria cited were 2.0 configuration and "pc speakers" which would presume that all of the samples had to have their own internal powered amplifier. If you were trying to get a sampling amongst a wide price range, your sample size is too small, though that might also be due to the limited vendor options noted.

    THG, you can be more comprehensive than this. You guys do Video Card reviews by price bracket and you're claiming sound is the big #2 sense used in computer use. You could do 2.0 speakers in two or three price brackets, 2.1 speakers in the same brackets and 5.1 or 7.1 in same brackets. We know you have the intelligence and enthusiasm :) 
  • 0 Hide
    Zoonie , January 19, 2011 10:45 AM
    Harman/Kardon's Soundsticks should've definitely been a part of this roundup :) 
  • 0 Hide
    cyrusfox , January 19, 2011 10:49 AM
    RandomactsNo love for the budget minded folk?


    While a bit of a pain to set up in Windows 7, these are great for the budget lover
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16836157008

    LOGISYS Computer SP8000BK 4.1 Speakers for $30 from newegg.

    Or you could go the other route, and just use a receiver and hand select your own speakers. Unfortunately it is hard to find nice used receivers at a decent price.
  • 0 Hide
    wasupmike , January 19, 2011 11:20 AM
    agree with how good the M-Audio speakers sound... ya, they're a bit pricey... but they're that good sounding - especially good for 'audio professionals'

    so if it's within anyone's budget... they're very worth considering - even over more complex setups (like 2.1)
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